GamerScore - Putting the late nights back into our consoles?

From the 360's launch back last November, people have been talking about the GamerPoints they've been amassing and showing off their achievements to all their friends. I for one have a GamerCard in my forum signature, proud of the fact that although I don't spend hours and hours in front of my TV, controller in hand every day, I'm still a games player with a certain degree of skill. Not only does it show the amount of hard graft I put into my Elder Scrolls Oblivion file, it also shows that I'm not one to be messed with in a quick game of Perfect Dark Zero either.

To those of you reading this that are unsure of how the system works, I'll just briefly fill you in on it. Every Xbox 360 game comes with 1,000 achievement points which can be obtained by doing certain things, varying from completing the game on Ultra hard difficulty to beating 100 people online. Sometimes, they're even as simple as entering one race on Xbox Live, so there's a good mixture for people of all abilities to get their teeth into. There's also a thing called a GamerCard - basically a record of which achievements you've done, which games you own, what online zone you're in, your reputation online if people have given you feedback and your gamer picture.

The GamerScore idea was incredibly original and was one of the 360's main selling points come launch day - being able to compare yourselves accurately with all your friends and in some cases rivals online was a great idea. It also extends the lifespan of your games considerably - after you've completed a game, you'll want to go back to finish it on different difficulties so you can go one over your next door neighbour. This means that the rather pricey $49.99 price tag on most of the 360's releases seems a little easier to bear in the knowledge that it'll last you a lot longer than usual. I've often found myself staying up to unreasonable hours, just trying to go that little bit further in a game or pushing myself to the extremes of my gaming ability only to knock off a few seconds on a lap in PGR or learn an advanced counter attack on Dead or Alive 4. (anyone who's played that and uses Hyabusa will know precisely what I'm on about.) There's also a great sense of satisfaction of knowing that you're doing something right in the game by getting the immortal words ''Achievement Unlocked'' appear at the bottom of the screen, and although gaining points is not an incentive to buy a game purely because of it, it's a big pull factor in favour of splashing the cash.

The achievements themselves are incredibly varied in both size and depth. There are some achievements which award you 50 points for merely beating the host nation at football on any difficulty, whilst others are so complex and dizzying, you could only do them if your family resembled the Incredibles and you point blank didn't want to sleep or go outside for about a month. I mean, there will always be some people who strive to get the hardest achievements and strut on the streets, wearing a print out of their Gamercard like a Victoria Cross, but for the most of us who haven't got thumbs of steel or the reflexes of a startled cheetah on speed, 1 million points on Geometry Wars or reaching level 280 on Endless Mode of Bejeweled 2 are things of legend. In fact, speaking of the later one, my mate actually attempted this, got to level 48 in a time of around 7 hours (he wasn't exactly sure how long it took him) and gave up. I can see some people spending days on their 360 to do this. And the reward? 10G. No, that's not a typo.

But as we all know, everything has a downside. With the introduction of gamerpoints come plenty more competitive gamers into the community. This in itself isn't such a bad thing, but when you've got some complete muppet screaming that you're a n00b down your headphones because you've only got 1,445 Gamerpoints and he's got no life and over 7,000 it's rather irritating. Another downside is that it makes you incredibly determined to complete a game with all it's achievements, draining away your social life in the process. The entire idea of gaming is to have fun, muck about and escape from the troubles reality might be giving you. Please note that when it said 'escape', it didn't mean that you could completely immerse yourself ten foot deep in crisp packets and beer cans, as well as leaving an imprint on an armchair because you've played on a game for around 14 hours straight. Come on, we've all been there - we've spent a few too many hours on a game to either get it done for the price of a rental or so that we get past that cursed door somewhere in the deepest dungeon. But you only did that once every now and again, and the GamerPoints system is giving you a reason to spend every day and night like it.

Now I've been out and about, trying to get peoples views on the system and many have given the same kind of feedback and their reasoning for it. I think the main thoughts behind the system are that it's a good idea, making your gaming life that little more tempting and rewarding and that comparing your ability and achievements with your friends is great. As one RPGSite writer said earlier on today, ''I think it's a lot of fun, especially since you can compare with your friends at the different achievements you can tackle on different games. Of course, you can also tell which one sits in their parent's basement, snacking on Doritos and Mountian Dew, wasting away their lives in front of a television screen as they try to score each and every achievement possible for every title in the Xbox 360 collection.''

Speaking of opinions, a certain Peter Moore was interviewed a couple of months back in EDGE magazine, and his response was particularly interesting.

EDGE: ''What's the internal response been to the guys who are really hammering 360 in terms of Achievement points? How do you feel about the fact that the people at the top are the people who have the most unhealthy attitude towards their gaming life?''

Peter Moore:There's a guy on Geometry Wars, I can't remember his gamer tag, but his score is far above anyone else in the world, and it makes me think this person doesn't have a life, doesn't work, and is completely and sickly addicted to this game. I think there's a level where people go overboard with Achievements, and people pay no attention to that. Then you've got the regular guys with scores of 4000 or so, show that they play maybe ten hours or so a week, and those are the guys you pay attention to.

And my opinion? I'm sitting on the fence right about now - I'll tell you what I think when I can get 3 black pearls on Hexic.

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